As a Reception Teacher, I know that starting school can be a difficult time for everyone involved. The separation, the fact your baby is growing up and it being the start of your child’s very long educational journey, all contribute to making starting school a potentially challenging experience. However, knowing your child is ready and prepared for their first day of school in September helps to make this difficult time slightly easier.
I have come up with a few simple tips that will make the first few weeks of school easier for you, your child and their teacher!
1) Help your child to recognise their name.
Nearly everything in your child’s new classroom will have their name, including their coat peg and their work tray. Most Reception children will also be required to do self-registration where they find their name to show they’re in class that day. All of this becomes easier and less scary for the child if they can already identify their name and are aware of what it looks like. One way to help your child this summer is simply to show them their name frequently and repeatedly. Then start showing them names of family members and friends and encourage them to recognise which is their own.
2) Develop some basic dressing skills.
It can be tempting to use the summer as your last chance to hold on to the fact that your baby is still your baby who depends on you, but try and use it as an opportunity to develop their independence. Your child is most likely to be one of thirty in a Reception class. From personal experience I can tell you that it is impossible for a teacher to do up thirty zips before every playtime! Encourage your child to learn how to do these simple but often tricky tasks before they start school. Putting on coats, jumpers and cardigans including zips and buttons should definitely be your priority. Tackle the more complex things later in the year when/if your child has to start changing for PE. Also on a side-note, if you child can’t do up their own laces, put them in velcro or slip on shoes (please!).
3) Make sure your child can go to the toilet independently.
Children often may not want to have to do a poo at school, but sometimes this is unavoidable and making sure they know what to do will make this a far less anxious time. Most schools do not have the resources or facilities to wipe for the children or to provide them with baby wipes. Consequently children need to be able to wipe themselves using standard toilet paper. Obviously if a child is really struggling or is ill, staff will be able to support them, but on the whole it helps everyone if they know what to do. On a similar note, as much as accidents do happen, especially in a new and unfamiliar environment, encourage your child to start going to the toilet with plenty of time to spare.
4) If you can, make some friends before school starts.
I know that it is not always possible to start making friends and connections with other children before school, however if you can, then try to. Having a familiar face to see on the first day of school can really help both you and your child to settle in. Setting up play dates can also help the children to develop those key skills they’ll need in school - sharing, taking turns and tidying up. The more we can give children the opportunity to practise these, the easier they’ll find it in a school setting.
5) Most importantly, create a space where you can talk about school.
This is crucial for helping your child feel safe and secure about starting school. Speak about school and make your child familiar with what might happen. If you know the teacher’s name then talk about them, for example simply say “I wonder if Mr/Miss (etc) So-and-so has gone on holiday”. This will create a normality about your child’s teacher and also shows them that you are taking an interest. If you can, do a trial journey of the school run and let your child see the school gates. Ask your child questions about how they are feeling about starting school and make sure they know it is normal and ok for them to be feeling a mixture of things. They need to know that they can speak to you and share with you their thoughts - whether they’re super confident and excited or feeling a little nervous and unsure. Whatever you/they say, just make sure they know they can talk about it.
All that’s left is a reminder to enjoy your summer and to wish you and your child the very best of luck for September. The children are often far more ready than we give them credit for and I assure you they will be fine (even if it takes the adults a few more days!)